A hint of regret, Sen. Rockefeller?
I'm sure they'll show it again later on C-SPAN. So if you get a chance, definitely try to catch a bit of the Roberts-Rockefeller press conference this morning announcing the release of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee report on the Iraq intelligence failure.
Sen. Rockefeller and the rest of the Democrats on the Committee voted unanimously to approve the report that a) places all the blame for the intelligence failures on the CIA, b) specifically -- and quite improbably -- rules out administration pressure as a cause of the problem, and c) avoids any discussion of how or whether the administration manipulated or distorted intelligence community findings to build their case for war.
The very structure of the investigation, as Rockefeller noted, necessarily pushed any discussion of the administration's responsibility for or role in the debacle back until after the November election -- a veritable tour de force of political convenience.
Yet in his comments at the press conference Rockefeller seemed to say that each of these conclusions was either false or so incomplete as to be deeply misleading.
As one of the first reporters to get a question in perceptively asked, why exactly then did they vote for it?
The reality is that the CIA is responsive to its president, its master. Its over-responsiveness is one of its key institutional flaws -- not just under this president, but under previous ones too. The CIA really did believe at least that Iraq continued to maintain some stocks of chemical and biological weapons. But its reports, analyses and judgments escalated dramatically in their certainty and scope after President Bush was sworn in to office (significantly, even before 9/11). Those at the CIA with more alarmist views gained favor at the White House, while those who were more skeptical lost it.
Remember in all of this that the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which Sen. Roberts noted was the focus of the Senate report, was hastily cobbled together after the White House had spent a year making its quite alarmist case about Iraq's illicit weapons.
There is no bright line separating the administration's hyping of the threat and manipulation of the evidence and the CIA's own misreading of the evidence and its institutional decision to service the president's needs.
The aim of the administration's defenders -- Senator Roberts, et al. -- is to draw such a bright line (I'm tempted to say 'forge' but let's say 'draw'), thus suggesting the reasoning that because the CIA is guilty, that the White House must be innocent. But that's not true. It is itself yet another deception. They're both guilty -- only of different things.
The CIA is guilty: of aiding and abetting.